Frequently Asked Questions

Prepared by Steve Jackson and Maintained by John Fiala

Updated on September 11, 1995 by Steve Jackson
And again on March 1, 1997 by John Karakash
And again on November 28, 1999 by John Fiala
and again on March 10, 2000 by Seth Cohen
and again on December 13, 2000 by Steve Brinich
(with help from Steve Jackson, Glen Barnett, & Seth Cohen)

This is a FAQ for general questions about the INWO game itself. If you are looking for rules information, there are three other files to check:

  • INWO Errata -- actual changes or errors in the cards and rules. This includes a guide to the changes between the Limited and Unlimited Editions.
  • Rules FAQ -- specific ''Frequently Asked Questions'' about the rules.
  • Card FAQ -- specific ''Frequently Asked Questions'' about the cards.
  • Very ''Frequently Asked Questions'' -- about the cards and rules.

General Information

What is INWO?
INWO is a ''trading card game'' version of the original Illuminati. Like the original game, it's my design (with lots of suggestions from the net, thankyouverymuch). It was released in December 1994 by SJ Games.
Many of the game mechanics are exactly the same. Some are changed.
What's ''the original Illuminati''?
Ahh. All right. Yes, I guess there are some people who never saw the original game. So...
INWO is a trading card game in which every weird thing in the tabloid papers is true, and there are secret conspiracies everywhere. Each player represents a group of the Illuminati ... the ''secret masters'' who were behind everything from the Kennedy assassination to the cancellation of ''Max Headroom.''
Each player starts by building a deck of cards. You play Group cards to build a ''power structure'' on the table; you can also take Groups away from your rivals. There are also Plot cards (representing everything from assassinations to World War III). The groups interact in wild and wonderful ways. So, for instance, the Semiconscious Liberation Army can cooperate with the FBI to destroy the Telephone Company. And then the UFOs can order the Congressional Wives to use a Media Campaign to bring it back -- UNDER THEIR CONTROL!
The object, of course, is to take over the world. Different players can do this in a variety of ways; it all depends on which Illuminati you are playing.
What's the purpose of the game?
To sell lots of copies, make huge disgusting clots of money, and update Illuminati with all the improvements (and new cards) that I've wanted to add for years and years.
Oh. Well, that's MY purpose. And it's going very nicely; thank you for asking. But when you play the game, YOUR purpose is to control the world by taking over the various power groups that really run everything, and/or destroying anything that gets in your way. In the process, you get to stab your friends in the back. Repeatedly.
It's also possible to win in other ways, if you have a Plot card with the right Goal. This makes it important to ''expose'' as many enemy Plots as you can ... so a hidden Goal doesn't catch you by surprise.
And it IS possible to share a victory. Thus, betrayals become truly meaningful, because there's always the chance that your rival really thought you were going to keep your promises.
Will the original Illuminati game remain in print?
As of 1999, Deluxe Illuminati IS back in print in a new format, with one supplement (Y2K) out, and another one (Brainwash) coming. Follow the link and read all about it!
By popular demand (and I use the word ''demand'' in the most literal sense), we bring you the "One Big Deck" variation that appeared in issue #11 of Pyramid Magazine. The people who simply don't care for the collecting and deck-building aspects of the game will still be able to play with the new cards using these rules.
Is this intended as a game for gamers, or as a trading card set?
I am doing this game for gamers, not for collectors -- but if I can make collectors happy without hurting the game at all, I will.
I do feel that the ''trade and collect'' aspect is an important part of the game for many players, but we'll provide variants for the people who would rather be torn to pieces by wild gerbils than collect a deck.
The plan has always been to make the cards so beautiful, weird and witty that any sensible collector would lust after them. But I want that because it will make the GAME more fun. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes, sometimes I require an extra seat on the bus.
Do you need more playtesters?
Not at present.
Where can I get more information?
There are mailing lists for INWO fans maintained by Glen Barnett <>. For the past few years, most of the discussion  has migrated there.
There have been INWO articles in  Pyramid, The Duellist and Scrye.
You can send written questions to SJ Games. Include an SASE -- a self-addressed, stamped envelope. If you include the envelope and we can figure out your writing, we'll answer.
Can I read the rules online?
You bet. Several HTML versions of the rules have been created by various volunteers.
Is an official card list available?
Several, and you can see them online.
Is it all right to post ''spoilers'' to the net?
''Spoilers'' -- that is, complete reports of what a card says, text and all -- are of questionable legality (not that anyone's going to get dragged into court for posting a single card). Posting a whole LIST of spoilers would be a clear copyright violation and would make us unhappy. Worse, it would make a lot of other people unhappy -- they don't WANT to read all the card info before they see the cards. So if you are going to do this tacky, bad-mannered, illegal thing, please AT LEAST title your post ''SPOILER'' so that others can avoid reading it and so our Men In Black can start looking for you immediately.
Is this a "Deckmaster" game?
No. "Deckmaster" is a trademark of Richard Garfield, and is used on those games (like MAGIC) designed by Garfield Games and published by Wizards of the Coast. WotC has given us all kinds of help -- technical, financial, and moral support -- but INWO is a SJ Games release, and does not use the "Deckmaster" mechanics or carry the trademark. And SJ Games will not do anything that might lead to their mark becoming a ''generic'' term. It should only be used to identify specific Garfield Games/WotC products.


How many players?
Eventually, millions, worldwide. [THWACK] [STRAIGHT ANSWER MODE ON]
It plays well with two (very little negotiation, just attack and counterattack). Version 1.1 of the rulebook (the one released with the Unlimited Edition) includes some rules hacks to make 2-player games last longer. With 3 to 5 players, evil negotiations become very important. At 6 players it begins to slow down more than I like. Trying to play with more than 8 is just not the right thing to do.
The very best numbers are 2, 3 and 5.
How long does it take to play?
30 minutes or less for a 2-player game, once you know the rules. An hour and a half or so for a 5-player game, unless one of the players is the type who just can't make up his mind. In that case, wipe him out first.
What are the biggest changes from the original Illuminati game, aside from the obvious?
Money has been eliminated. Power is everything now :-)
Uncontrolled (neutral) groups have been eliminated. You capture from your own hand; you can also capture or destroy from your rivals' Power Structures.
All power is now transferable, within limits, based on group alignment. Some groups still have a slash in their power number -- e.g., 5/4. The second number is ''Global Power,'' which is transferable with almost no limits.
Groups now have ''action tokens'' to show when they have acted. You are not limited to two actions a turn, and you can save your actions and use them during your rivals' turns, to aid or hinder their attacks. Or for other evil, special things fnord.
Can two or more people play the same Illuminati?
Yes. This automatically makes them bitter enemies. They cannot share a victory (except for Shangri-La...) and either one will get special bonuses for destroying the other.
Can duplicates of other cards be useful?
Yes. If you hold a duplicate of an Illuminati or Group card that is already in play, you can use it (once) to get a better attack on that enemy. And duplicate Plot cards are fine! But we don't want to have ANY cards of the ''one is good, two are better, ten are even better, 20 are better yet'' variety. Any time you put a duplicate in your deck, you lose in flexibility what you gain in depth ... be careful.
Can you change goals or strategy in the middle of the game?
Yes, of course. A player who is not capable of this had better find another game ... you build a deck with a strategy in mind, but if you don't have wheels within wheels, you'll be MEAT when events overtake you. You can build a deck to make this easier, of course.
Is alignment still important?
Even more important than it was before. It has the same effects it used to, and more. For instance, a group now gets +4 to DEFEND against an attempt to control or destroy for each alignment it has in common with its master (the group controlling it).
Can I build the Killer Deck From Hell?
There are a lot of ways to build good decks. But any deck can be thwarted if your rivals know what cards you're using and prepare for it. Your Killer Deck From Hell will die like a dog if you keep using the same cards and strategy over and over.
It's better to have several decks and switch between them, and to make slight modifications each game based on what you expect your rivals to do. For instance, a power deck of big hairy Government and Violent groups plays one way if you're Cthulhu, and a very different way if you're Bavaria.
Abusive decks do better in two-player games (Version 1.1 of the rules does some things to deal with this). In a multi-player game, looking too strong, too quickly, is the equivalent of painting a target on your forehead.
Will a rich player be able to buy a victory?
Somebody who owns all the cards will always have an advantage. But everybody has to play with the same size deck (we recommend 45). If you don't know how to use them, you can be stomped by someone who is a good player and has a well-thought-out deck of common cards. We've proved this in playtest. I give someone a real killer deck and go head-to-head with them, using any old handful of stuff. And I tromp them. Of course, I've played before :-)
The cards work together in lots of interesting ways. The more familiar you are with your cards, the better you can do. Money is nice, but brains and guile will trump mere bucks every time.
If you're really filthy rich, the best way to win is not to buy more cards, but to bribe your rivals to throw the game. Now that's Illuminated, and cuts right to the heart of things. Just don't let me catch you doing it in one of my tournaments, unless you give me a cut. Fnord.
Does the game include ante?
It's not part of the rules. But you can bet anything you want. This is for world domination, so betting one card is kind of cheap, anyhow. Bet ALL your cards. Bet real money. Bet 24 hours of unlimited personal service, with groveling. Whatever floats your boat, folks.
Are Propaganda, Brainwashing, and the other special rules from the old Illuminati Expansion Set 3 in here?
Yes and no. There are different mechanics for the same effects.
For instance, Brainwashing let you change the alignments of a group. There are now Plot Cards that will allow that.
Propaganda let you change the political climate of the whole world, which affected the power of various groups. The ''New World Order'' Plot Cards now allow that. But the mechanic is completely different -- there is no ''world alignment''.
Hidden victory conditions (now called Goals, 'cause it's a shorter term) are possible in INWO, but enemy action can expose them, too.
However, the new Illuminati groups from the old Illuminati Expansion Set 3 are not in the current card set of INWO.


Will the game, in general, be sold like Magic: The Gathering?
Yep. Starter sets and booster packs. However, the starter set is a set of 110 cards, in two decks of 55 cards each, retailing for $9.95. Our recommended deck for play is 45 cards. So, for $5 each, you and a friend can split a starter set and each have enough cards to build a beginning deck, with some left to trade.
Incidentally, the decks have been collated so you will have very few duplicate cards -- ideally, none at all -- in each 110-card Starter Set.
Limited Edition Booster packs have 15 cards each, and retail for $2.25. There are more uncommons and rares, proportionately, in booster packs than in starter sets, but no Illuminati cards -- just Groups and Plots. The Unlimited Edition has 16 cards per Booster pack, including an occasional Illuminati card.
What's the release date?
It's out. The Limited Edition was released to retailers on December 16, 1994; the first printing of the Unlimtied Edition was released on April 4, 1995. The Factory Set was released later that month.
Will there be a ''Factory Set,'' with one of every card?
Yes. It's out. We call it "One With Everything." It currently retails for $29.95, and includes one of each of the 400 Groups, Resources, and Plots in the Limited Edition, plus the three special Groups to be released in magazines. There are 3 of each Illuminati group, and 10 each blank Plots and Groups.
It IS playable as a stand-alone game set. It includes rules for at least two variant versions that will use only the cards from the factory set -- thus, a group of people can play with the factory set, instead of each owning their own decks.
The card faces are different from those of the original edition, though the art is mostly the same (we did enhance or replace a few illustrations when we went from Limited to Unlimited editions). The backs and the corners are the same. Thus, you can combine cards from the two sets, if you want to, but it is also easy to EXCLUDE cards of either type if that's the way you want to play.
How about a Factory set for Assassins?
It seems very unlikely.
Will there be supplements?
Yes. The first supplement, Assassins, shipped in December 1995. It contained 125 new cards, including an new Illuminati. It is available only in 8-card booster packs.
Anything else?
INWO: SubGenius (which was released in 1998) is a supplement and a stand-alone card game that includes cards based on the SubGenius Religion/Organization/Frat Party. It's a factory set all in itself, and includes four different copies of the new SubGenius Illuminati card. They're all tournement legal in the original game as well. You can see the original rant about it here!
What if I like the SubGenius set, but don't have any other INWO cards?
INWO: SubGenius doesn't require anything else to play - all of the cards and rules to are right there in the box. Of course, if you like the game, you're free to buy a few packs of regular INWO and add them to the mix.
Any other add-on projects in the works?
Lots of work has been done, but we don't currently have any new releases scheduled. Now that the card game fad is over, it's a lot harder to sell enough copies of a card set to recover costs. Cards are expensive to print!
Already released, though, are:
The INWO Book. It is 144 pages, full-color throughout, with a complete card list (with the art), game variants, commentary, and other strange stuff fnord.
Blank INWO Cards. Packs of 20 blanks so you can invent your own groups and plots.
 The World Domination Kit, a player's kit released by Chessex.
Frankencard for INWO, a deck-design program for Windows, published by Geekware (now out of print).

Will there be official tournaments and official tournament rules?
Our Men In Black organize games and tournaments at conventions, stores, and other places where there are enough gamers to be found.
You can read the official tournament rules online.
Are you planning other trading-card games?
That's beyond the scope of this FAQ. The answer is yes, no, maybe, I'm too busy to think about it, one is enough, if it makes money, do you think this will last, why are you asking, and it all depends.
Will you maintain an Internet site for information about the game?
Yes. You can find INWO material on the official INWO Web site. We will keep good archives, now that the game has been released.

Cards, Rarity, and Stuff

How many cards are there?
There are 400 cards, plus 9 different Illuminati, in the initial distribution. There were three other ''special'' cards, distributed only in magazines, which are also considered part of the original Limited Edition.
The Assassins expansion added another 122 plus 1 Illuminati, and two more special cards. The INWO: SubGenius set added 96 more cards, and another Illuminati (printed four different ways).
The German edition of INWO included some cards which do not have exact equivalents in the English-language edition.
What is the total number of INWO cards in circulation?
There are about 23 million Limited Edition cards in circulation. The first printing of the Unlimited Edition was not quite 32 million. The Factory Set added around 10 million cards. The German edition had a classified print run (translation: don't know, will ask).
Where did the three special Limited Edition cards appear?
Pyramid issue #12 contained two Limited Edition group cards that were not in the initial distribution. Duellist issue #4 contained one more Limited Edition group that was not in the initial distribution.
Their rarity worked out to be less rare than Rare -- in other words, there were more of each of these cards than there of each rare card. They are NOT ''ultra-rares.'' They are for fun and for promotion, not to make the collectors go crazy. (However, quite a few of the ones we printed went to Brazil, France and Germany, which may make them effectively more rare than we intended.)
How does card rarity work?
There are three levels of rarity, plus the Illuminati cards (which are occasionally found in Unlimited booster packs, but are mainly in the starter sets-- usually 4 in each starter set, therefore two per deck). Frequency of cards in starter and booster sets is, percentage-wise, very similar to those of the original Magic: The Gathering.
The initial release had 200 common, 100 uncommon, and 100 rare, plus the 9 Illuminati cards.
What's the exact distribution of card types in Starters and Boosters?
In the first place, you're not cleared for that. In the second place, we don't guarantee an exact distribution in every set. In the third place, we threw a bunch of extra Rares into the Limited Edition booster pack mix, just for fun ...
What do the cards look like?
Like, ya know, cards, man. Kinda square, but not exactly, with a front and a back, and [THWACK]
Ahem. There are two different back designs: PLOTS and GROUPS. All cards are full-color on both front and back.
The cards are standard trading-card size, so you can use standard card sleeves, albums, boxes and so on.
Size of the picture varies; some cards have very little text, so we used the extra room to make the picture bigger.
The cards have frames -- the art does not go all the way to the edge of the card.
How are limited-edition cards distinguished from the unlimited edition and the factory set?
The limited-edition cards have colored frames (red for Groups, blue for Plots, purple for Resources); the card names are in gold. The factory set has black frames, and the card names are in different colors, keeping the same colors: red for Groups, blue for Plots, purple for Resources.
The cards for the Unlimited Edition look generally similar to those for the Limited Edition, with two differences -- both in the card titles. In the first place, the card titles are in italic type rather than regular. In the second place, instead of being gold-colored, the Unlimited titles are the same color as the card's text box - light blue for Plots, light purple for Resources, pink for Groups. Sounds awful; looks good. Illuminati still have gold titles.
And thanks to everyone who commented on the early designs we posted here! We read your feedback and didn't use any of those designs in their original form, but combined the best points from all of them.
Card backs and corners are the same in all sets.
Are the cards thick enough to survive play?
Yes. We used 14-point stock (expensive, and thicker than standard playing cards) with a coating over the printing. User comments so far have been mostly favorable. If anything, the cards are a bit too thick for really easy shuffling, but they break in nicely.
Were the cards printed at Carta Mundi in Belgium, like those for Magic?
No. (It's interesting that this is such a frequent question. Never before could gamers tell you the name of a printer!!)
We considered Carta Mundi -- they do good work -- but we settled on Steketee-Van Huis for the Limited Edition printing and EPI for the collation and assembly. Both plants are located in Michigan. The Unlimited Edition was printed at Steketee and assembled at Outlook Graphics, in Neenah, Wisconsin.
Is all the card art original?
Almost all of it. We re-used a few really great pieces, not to cheap out, but because they were too good NOT to use. Most of these pieces actually inspired the cards that use them (like the Plot Hit and Run, and the Group W.I.T.C.H.).
All these re-used pieces started out as black-and-white illustrations, which were then colored or re-colored on the Macintosh. There are no (for instance) recycled game maps in INWO!
The rest of the art was created just for these cards.
Incidentally, we reworked the art for several cards after the Limited Edition was released ... just because we felt like it :-)
Who are the artists?
Dan Smith and Shea Ryan, mostly. John Kovalic did about 20 cards. They created the line art. Derek Pearcy, Jeff Koke and Rick Martin were responsible for the graphics and coloring.
And the INWO: SubGenius expansion art was produced by drug-crazed-simians...or the SubGenii themselves, which isn't far off.
How many cards in the first press run?
The first press run, a.k.a. the Limited Edition, was around 23 million cards.
Did that mean ''instant shortages''?
It appears that all the distributors, or almost all of them, sold out before we shipped any cards.
Did the ''controversial'' groups return in this edition?
Heh, heh. Yes, and they brought their friends.
What does THAT mean?
Beg pardon? Did you say something? ;-)
Does INWO include ALL the groups from the original game?
No, just most of them. A few were omitted because they no longer seemed topical, or because they just weren't as neat as some of the new ideas. A few more were knocked out for game balance, and may return in an expansion set.
Is it true that you were giving away free Rare cards?
Yes. However, that offer ended January 31, 1995.
Will blank cards be available?
They're available right now. The Factory Set (see above) includes blanks.
We have also released packages of 20 blank cards (10 each of Plots and Groups). These will be of no interest to collectors, but gamers can use them to (for instance) substitute for a card they don't want to scuff up in play, or even to invent new cards. Of course, each group will have to have its own house-rule decisions on the cards they invent themselves. We will NOT volunteer as mediators! Nor will we offer ''official guidelines'' for inventing new cards and making them ''legal'' ... !! The blank cards are intended for fun among friends, and NOT to encourage weird, abusive strategies at tournaments.
Are the cards numbered?
No. Originally, we thought we would, but customer feedback was very strongly against it. So we didn't.
Will INWO be available in other languages?
The German edition has been released by Spieltreffe Pegasus, Some US distributors have picked it up, so some shops carry it . . . and Warehouse 23 still has a supply.
There is also a Polish edition, published by Copernicus.
Is this the last question in the FAQ?
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